Genetically modified crops first fought pests and weeds, but scientists say advances can protect and improve human health.

The first generation of GM seeds was concocted to keep crops free of weeds and bugs. Now, Japanese scientists have come up with a new generation of genetically modified food that they say will benefit the health of those who consume it.

Transgenic rice fights pollen allergy

Transgenic rice fights pollen allergy

Fumio Takaiwa and colleagues write in this week’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that the next generation of transgenic crops — “veggies and grains that produce higher levels of nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, or even medicines and vaccines” — are being developed to directly benefit human health.

Great advances have been made, the scientists say, but admit they are “anxiously trying to determine whether foods produced from these ‘biopharmaceutical’ crops will be safe for humans and the environment.”

The scientists at Japan’s National Institute for Agrobiological Sciences have developed a transgenic rice plant that has been genetically engineered to fight allergies to Japanese cedar pollen. This is a growing public health problem in Japan that affects about 20 percent of the population.

After 26 weeks of animal studies, in which monkeys were fed the steamed rice, no health problems were seen with the allergy-fighting rice.

Human testing may be next, they say.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes before food safety advocates in the U.S. and elsewhere, weigh in on the new uses for genetically engineered crops.

I bet it won’t be long.

Here’s a link to the study.


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